What would you like to get out of the ensuing generation of video game consoles? What do you expect to see from the likes of Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo? The generation is just getting started and we've got plenty of questions. Our gaming staff, alongside admins from a few of our most popular communities, are looking towards the to the horizon for answers.
Until now, the big push on games has been graphics. Each generation has promised more colors, more sprites, more polygons, and more of it all at the same time.
But this is an area where there is a natural cap. The human eye can only take in so much at a time -- iPads and iPhones already have screens at a resolution that is almost identical to the eye. Eyes can only see so many colors. While the power of Graphics has been a great, and amazingly successful means for getting more power into consoles (which has paid off in other ways too -- more graphics requires more storage which allows for other content too), it is ultimately a proposition of diminishing returns. While the jumps from NES to SNES to N64 were amazing, the jump from PS3 to PS4 (or Xbox 360 to One) doesn’t quite have the same awe-inspiring jump.
Sony, Microsoft (and even Nintendo) know this. Sadly, in response we see the rise of the gimmick. We see a range of dubious extras that may or may not improve the game experience in the hope that something “sticks”, whether it's voice and motion control, second screens, live gameplay streaming, even a promise of a return to Virtual Reality. These aren’t my cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still a lot to get excited about.
For me, Sony’s got a lot of potential, they just have to decide to use it. We all know who Sony Computer Entertainment are. They make the Playstation and the PSP, and have a few developer houses sitting under here to make both games and consoles. Nothing special here: Nintendo, Microsoft, and even most of the fallen game companies of the past could boast this.
But Sony’s entertainment assets go beyond games - they’re the second largest record company in the world, and second largest music publisher - they even own the rights to the Beatles. They’re the 3rd largest movie company, and have their own TV studio and several TV channels.
Coming back to your lounge room, they might have made your TV, and work with Sharp on building larger LCDs. They make DVD players and the DVDs that go in them. They make home theaters, tablets, and even computers. You might even own a Sony mobile phone.
This is a company that is well prized to take care of all of your entertainment needs in one swoop -- what you watch it on, how you play it, and as well as the actual entertainment itself. If you’re wondering how to pay for that, you might be surprised to learn that Sony even have their own bank!
If Sony can pull most, or perhaps even all of these divisions together, you’ve created a rather formidable juggernaut. These are all functions that Microsoft could not easily replicate. All it might take is for Sony’s internal corporate politics to be put aside, and with signs that Sony Music and Sony Pictures Entertainment are getting on board with the Playstation Express, signs are looking good that they're doing just that.
Even though if you’re not buying a console and sticking to PC, this round of consoles is looking good for you. A lot of the components in the consoles themselves are simply off the shelf parts, pretty much identical to those found in PCs, meaning that porting games back to PC should be a cinch. If you’re a linux or Mac user (like me), knowing that the core of the PS4 is a special version of Unix-like BSD might bring a little hope that perhaps a few ports might come our way too -- something the Steam Box will further encourage.
But what I’m possibly most excited about is the prospect of technologies like Gaikai and Onlive. If you’re lucky to live in a place where you can get an internet connection capable of supporting ultra high speeds, you can already bypass the hardware limitations on whatever equipment you’re using and have some server in the cloud handle that for you. This is technology that is already being used amongst countless corporations with desktop machines making way for “thin clients”. If our governments and telecommunications companies can get their fingers out and actually build the next generation broadband networks they claim to aspire to, then no matter which you choose, this could quite possibly end up as the last console you need to buy.
…Well, until someone finally makes the Holodeck.
What interests me most about the next-generation of consoles is their place in a new media environment. These consoles are so much more than simple gaming machines. With the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, players will be able to instantly share their experiences online with recorded gameplay footage or have the ability to broadcast their game to viewers over video streaming services. Support for popular apps such as Netflix turns these consoles into multimedia powerhouses, and it’s a very interesting development that leads to plenty of questions about how the future will play out.
As many others will agree, the first year in a new console’s lifespan is always a rough spot. These new machines offer suffer hardware flaws, and the launch library of games doesn’t bring enough to convince gamers to shell out the hefty price tag immediately. So far, the launch lineup for both the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 leave a lot to be desired.
It’s easy to forget the Wii U, which has essentially be limited to the shoulders of Nintendo. The Wii U is struggling to find a large audience, but it’s only a matter of time before Nintendo churns out an immensely polished game that will help kickstart the console.
At this point, it’s too early to tell exactly what will define the next generation of games. The first year of the new consoles will feel eerily similar to the current-gen, as there are a plethora of games that are set to appear on both old and new consoles. The big question that remains with me is how the culture of game design will innovate over the lifetime of the next-gen. Things such as open worlds, quick time events, online multiplayer, and downloadable content have been permanently engrained in the culture of modern games. What new trend will emerge that will leave an undeniable effect on the way game design is approached? And what old features will die out as they slowly become inferior to new ideas?
What I want the most of these new consoles is for them to set new standards in game design and gameplay. Nothing worse than playing a game that’s a new release but feels exactly like a game I played ten years prior. Next-generation consoles will have the lowest barrier of entry of any of the past consoles, in my mind, because they are being marketed as multimedia machines. I predict the demographics of gamers evolving even further. This could affect the games we see published by Triple A developers.
On the opposite end of this, indie developers are in a very solid position to develop games for the new consoles, as both PlayStation and Xbox have simplified their development process, allowing for smaller time developers an easier ability to publish their titles. There is plenty of exciting potential for blockbuster independent games in the coming years.
All in all, I am very much in a wait-and-see position with the next generation consoles, and I personally will be going backwards for the first year, playing current-gen titles that I’ve missed out on before I take a step forward. By then, I’m sure I would have made a choice on which one I’ll pick up, as well as what new games to tackle first.
This generation has been a really big leap forward in gaming with native HD rendering, impressive multiplayer capabilities, hands-free game play, BluRay disc readers, and tons of TV and entertainment apps; all of which I’m not only happy to see they’ve been kept in the next generation, but also massively improved upon. Whilst Sony has chosen to remain solely dedicated to gaming with the PlayStation 4, Microsoft really took it to the next level with incorporating live TV, Skype, the new Kinect, and dedicated cloud servers (no more lobbies!). It’s not hard to see which console I’m sold with, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like the PlayStation 4 either. The PlayStation 4’s ability to render games at higher resolutions is going to make for some visually spectacular games (already evident with Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts), and the new controller is a marked improvement on the old dual-shocks, even if I still maintain that the Xbox One controller remains supreme.
All of these amazing features are sure to push gaming in a new and more exciting direction. One thing I look forwards too is the ease in which I can communicate with users of the Halo wiki through Skype whilst playing games, and the design of the new Xbox controller’s impulse triggers allows for more realistic tactile feedback when using weapons or driving vehicles. Whilst the majority of news has been good for this generation, I have to admit I still remain disappointed by the directions taken by both Microsoft and Sony.
During the run up to E3 this year, Microsoft announced some changes to their DRM designed to improve game sharing like that seen on Steam, and improve multiplayer hosting by weeding out that player who always joins with an internet connection worse than Antarctic outposts – but after a very hasty and ill-informed backlash by a small number of the community Microsoft reversed their decisions. I would love to see their original plan of action brought back for those who were actually looking forwards to it and understood the benefit of the system. Another disappointment is Sony’s choice to remain extremely conservative and safe by just releasing a console with better graphics and memory without any real improvement except patching up mistakes they had made with the PlayStation 3. I would prefer to see the console developers taking more risk and trying to innovate how we play games, like what Oculus Rift are doing, instead of bending to the will of forum trolls all the time. I feel that we’ve really missed out this generation by a mix of Microsoft’s lack of conviction and Sony’s lack of innovation.
Now that the next generation of consoles is here, I find history about to repeat itself. While I’m no longer quite as destitute as I was in my college days, I still seriously doubt I’ll be purchasing a next gen console any time soon. Why is that? Well, at the moment there’s simply very few games out I’m interested in playing. And while both the PS4 and The Xbox One offer a range of other services, I’m only really in it for the games. My current consoles stream everything I need, and my most anticipated upcoming game, Dark Souls 2, is a current generation release. While the two new consoles are certainly available right now, I’m more interested in letting the ecosystems of both evolve a bit more before I plunk down my cash.
But what do I want to see from next gen?
- I’d love to see how Sony manages to implement the Vita in with the PS4. I like their crossbuy program, and look forward to more games that are playable on both the console and the portable, a la Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on the Wii U and 3DS. Without a dedicated portable gaming system, Xbox will have to sit this one out. No offense, but I’m not interested in playing Halo 5 on my Surface.
- Given that both systems now share the same X86 Intel architecture, I also expect cross platform multiplayer to eventually be a given.
- More PS+ “Instant Game Collection” styled digital content plans. PS+ is radically changing how and what games I play, by allowing me easy access to many titles I overlooked, or simply wasn’t interested in purchasing. Given the ever increasing speed of the internet, digital distribution of games will only get easier, and giving players a buffet of diverse games to check out is a great way to get people interested in stuff they didn’t even know they’d like. If easy access to all digital media is the future standard, being able to parse the overwhelming selection into something manageable will be essential.
As we move forward to next generation of consoles, I sincerely hope that the advances in technology will allow game developers to create even more richly detailed worlds. The progress that has been made over the life cycle of the last lots of consoles was amazing and I sincerely hope that trend continues.
On a more technical note, I also hold out hope that my computer-controlled companions will be less suicidal. And as a final hopeful wish that maybe, just maybe, this generation might see the return of platformers, bigger and better than ever before.
But whatever happens, I can't wait to play what comes next!
Even though it looks like things are off to a bit of a slow start, with big publishers like EA, Activision and UbiSoft opting to release forward-ports of established franchise titles like Battlefield, Call of Duty, and Assassin’s Creed, instead of focusing on new properties and ideas with the new consoles in mind, I am mostly hopeful for the ensuing generation of video games. That said, I think it’s going to take a bit of time before the real impact of this new hardware starts to trickle down to consumers. At the moment, it seems the technical advancements seem to benefit developers more than they do players, allowing them to employ advanced techniques like procedural level design and persistent multiplayer, with smaller budgets and staffs.
With time, however, I think this freedom is going to allow developers to make some incredibly interesting games that employ some compelling new systems that change the way we approach games. It’s simply going to take time for game developers and game development processes to become familiar enough with their new tools to use them creatively. Until then, I’m sure we’re going to see a lot of what we’ve been seeing on PS3 and Xbox 360. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing — but I don’t think most players, even among the hardcore set, currently have much incentive to upgrade to new consoles.
That said, though it’s an easy thing to do, I think it’s important that gamers don’t shrug off Nintendo’s presence in the ensuing console generation. While the Wii U might not have the tech-specs of its peers, it probably doesn’t need to. Smart art direction in games like Pikmin 3 and even The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (based on a 10 year old game, at that) are proof that visuals aren’t always defined by things like polygon counts and HD textures. On top of everything, Nintendo is filling a void, an increasingly apparent one, by staying true to its commitment to local multiplayer, reminding gamers of a simpler time in gaming that really didn’t need to be phased out.
This is certainly going to be an interesting console generation. After seven long years, people are ready to move on to the next big thing. We’re ready for a change. With Mircosoft’s downright shameful and entirely inept approach to public reception, the PS4 has a huge head start this generation, with Xbone behind it. The Wii U tripped and died on the way to the race. Say what you want about the Wii U-I think it’s a really cool system myself-but the fact that people are saying that the new console generation starts on the fifteenth says a lot. I wouldn’t discount the Xbone just yet, however. With Killer Instinct, the Xbone seems like the first choice for huge fighting game fans. The Wii U isn’t necessarily dead, either. Like the Vita, all it needs is a few solid exclusives to survive. Will the classic Nintendo line-up be enough to save this console? Or will it suffer the same fate as the Dreamcast?
I don’t want this to just be an extension of the old generation. I want eighth gen to be a fresh start, a chance at re-evaluating what makes a console great. As someone who’s been with the PlayStation 3 since the start, I can attest that it’s come a long way since its original release. When it first launched, I couldn’t even send messages in-game. However, I also recently got a new PC, and with it, Steam. Despite advances for both consoles, they still have a long way to go compared to their competitors on PC. On the PlayStation 3, there’s no easy way acsess your digital library. With such a limited amount of space on the hard drive, I have no reason to go digital. In order to find the games I own, I have to go to the PlayStation Store and scroll down through every letter, since I can’t type it in. On Steam, my entire library is accessible with a single click. People complain that you can’t change your username on PSN, but on Steam, this is a non-issue, because I can make my display name anything I want, and it doesn’t even have to be unique. Other features such as nicknames for users and player groups are also incredibly useful for keeping track of all your friends online. Trading cards are also something that everyone should hop onto, because it’s a brilliant feature. In general, I think we should all pay attention to what Steam does, considering the billions that Valve has made.
With the next generation right around the corner, I’m cautiously optimistic. The Wii U is struggling against negative sales numbers in some places, and will be lucky just to survive. Microsoft is selling a weaker system at a higher price, on top of the huge slew of mistakes they’ve made at every conceivable turn. None of this screams competition to me, and I’m a bit worried we’re coming into this race a little lopsided. This generation has been a huge leap forward, and I hope the next one will be even bigger. However, with each advance in technology we get, we find new ways to abuse it. Despite my concerns, I think this is going to be one hell of a console generation. Let’s just hope it’s not our last.
It's also important to remember where you came from, so we're also looking back to the past and reminiscing about the previous generation, in a companion piece called Reflections.
Of course, we'd love to hear what you have to say about the ensuing video game generation -- feel free to chime in via the comments!